Lorries deliver load after load of label waste to the UPM Plattling paper mill in Bavaria, where it is transformed into valuable raw material for paper production. By reusing this waste instead of dumping it at landfills, UPM closes the circle and saves resources.
When Michael Janssens and Andre Vijfwinkel from Altrif Label, a Dutch label manufacturing company, visited the UPM Plattling mill this summer, they were astonished by the size of the mill and the efficiency of the process.
The purpose of their visit was to learn more about UPM’s RafCycle® programme their company had recently joined. Altrif Label is one of the largest label printers in the Netherlands and a major purchaser of self-adhesive label materials.
As members of the RafCycle programme, any liner waste they generate is now taken to Bavaria in southern Germany, where it is turned into raw material for graphic papers.
This entirely new way of recycling label waste interested the Dutch company for several reasons, one being that the company’s customers value partners who run their business in a sustainable manner. “We want to be a label supplier that offers added value,” states Marketing Manager Janssens.
This comparison is made on recycling vs. landfilling (volume of one year).
Not just lip service
This added value also brings tangible savings to the company. Waste costs and CO₂ emissions will come down, and the waste is turned into new paper instead of being dumped at a landfill or sent off for incineration.
In a region as densely populated as the Netherlands, recycling is not just a matter of lip service, but something that environmentally aware customers expect from their suppliers.
Altrif has changed many of its practices since joining the RafCycle programme. “In the past, liner waste was taken to China or incinerated. Dutch regulations on recovered paper have changed and a higher level of purity is now required. The RafCycle programme provided us with an excellent recycling solution,” Janssens says.
Altrif Label is located in the south of the Netherlands. The company delivers labels to globally operating companies , as well as smaller ones, including a local bakery. A market made up of large and small operators is typical in the label business, yet this makes collecting label waste a major challenge.
“Every month, we generate around 5,000 kilogrammes of label waste that one of UPM’s logistics partners then collects at no additional cost. We also offer the same service to our end customers. If a customer generates more than 3,000 kilogrammes of waste a month, we do not charge them for collecting it,” explains Purchasing Manager Vijfwinkel.
The RafCycle programme will reduce Altrif’s annual waste costs by 20–30 per cent and strengthen the company’s image as a responsible operator in the eyes of end users.
Waste business on the grow
Lorries carrying self-adhesive label waste drive into the yard of the UPM Plattling mill at regular intervals. The ones coming from outside Germany are always full, carrying loads weighing at least 20,000 kilogrammes.
This is a major logistical feat: Small streams of waste from all over Europe are collected by UPM’s partners before lorries deliver the waste to Plattling. “Our logistics partners in countries such as the Netherlands, Austria and Spain help us succeed in this regard,” says Viktor Winter, Manager, RCP Sourcing Grades, at UPM Paper ENA.
Local freight forwarders collect the label waste from several addresses, deliver it to an intermediate storage location and inform UPM when a full lorry load is ready to be transported.
The waste generated during the various stages of label production is delivered to three different locations within UPM. The UPM Schwedt paper mill uses matrix waste to generate energy. The UPM ProFi Bruchsal plant meanwhile turns matrix waste into composite products, while UPM Plattling uses purified liner waste to create raw material for its paper production processes. The Plattling mill manufactures coated and uncoated printing papers that are used for products such as magazines and advertising material.
Good ideas catch on fast
The mill uses an innovative method to separate the silicone from the label liners. “Long-fibred label paper is extremely good paper and an excellent raw material for our paper manufacturing process,” Winter emphasizes.
The raw material recouped from label waste is used as a substitute for pulp at Plattling. The volumes of recycled label waste have grown steadily since 2011 when the use of the recovered material began. In 2012, label waste accounted for a couple of per cent of the total raw material used, but in 2014 this figure was already as high as 15 per cent. This year’s target is close to 20 per cent. Plattling annually uses some 40,000 tonnes of recovered paper in its paper manufacturing operations.
Winter has gradually expanded the network of customers and logistics companies that are involved in the recycling effort. “It has been great to see how the business has grown and how well the market has received the new idea,” he says.
Winter enjoys inviting customers to visit the Plattling mill. During their visit, Janssens and Vijfwinkel witnessed how the waste from the Altrif plant in Roosendaal is first turned into a raw material suitable for paper production and then used to manufacture quality paper. Cost-effective and ecological — Biofore at its best.